Reed dashes in all directions on committee day

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 4/30/17

MONTGOMERY — Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, doesn’t get much time to relax at work.

On Wednesday morning, Reed, coatless, was leaning back in the couch in his small office on the seventh floor in the Alabama Statehouse, still …

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Reed dashes in all directions on committee day

Posted

MONTGOMERY — Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, doesn’t get much time to relax at work.

On Wednesday morning, Reed, coatless, was leaning back in the couch in his small office on the seventh floor in the Alabama Statehouse, still larger compared to the tiny offices the average legislator gets. He was talking about committee days on Wednesdays, compared to when the full chambers meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“Wednesdays are busier than other days,” Reed said. “When we’re in session, especially for me now — I mean, my situation has changed for me significantly ...” 

Suddenly, John Rogers, the communications director for the majority leader’s office, interrupts.

“Sen. Reed, I hate to interrupt, but that bill is about to come up right now, so if you want to make it down there to offer an amendment on it ...”

Reed asks, “Is this the bill on ...”

Rogers said, “This is the bill on ticketing. HB265.” 

“Yeah, I’m supposed to do that,” Reed says. He gets up, puts on his coat, and quickly leaves the office, heading down the hall to get to the modern-design committee room.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by a jovial and relaxed Sen. Cam Ward, is debating a bill already passed in the House, HB265, that would limit a ticket issuer’s use of a nontransferable ticketing system to allow for the ticket buyer to resell the ticket. Several senators offer amendments, including Reed.

However, the committee hits a number of other topics as well, ranging from a judicial inquiry commission to parental rights, racing to get through a number of bills before another committee takes over the room for their hearing. Reed lingers to deal with competing versions of the parental rights legislation.

Reed speaks up to committee members, urging them to continue to work toward a compromise on a final bill.

“There is more things that people agree with than they don’t,” he tells the members.

The average legislator stays constantly busy, dealing with constituents when he is at home, running to any number of check presentations, dinners and meetings with constituents, as well as taking phone calls and being caught on the fly at the post office or Walmart.

But for the Senate majority leader, it is especially easy to attract people to talk to you. This year, Reed’s time has become even busier, as the move of Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey into the Governor’s Office means Senate Pro Tem Dale Marsh has moved into the presiding chair over the Senate, putting more work on Reed.

Reed is stopped several times in the hallway by others, inquiring about a bill or other needs that they wish to check on quickly while they see him in the hall.

They are not alone, as legislators, aides, constituents, student tour groups, lobbyists, security people, media and others are everywhere in the halls, stopping to chat, walking quickly to a meeting, coming out of meetings, sitting to type on laptops or check on their phones.

Activity seems to be at a fever pitch, ebbing and flowing, with elevators packed going up and down, as committee rooms are spread out on many floors of the eight-floor structure.

Even lunch is an activity, as House Republicans hold a caucus meeting that day, where everyone is in a good fellowship mood, and where political who-is-running-for-what gossip is shared, and steam is let off privately about what has been seen in earlier meetings. A brief program is held by a visitor speaking about a particular interest. Eventually, after visitors invited by legislators are kindly asked to leave, real party business is discussed.

The House chamber is on the fifth floor, while the Senate chamber is on the seventh floor, but no one is concerned about the chambers on Wednesdays, as the committee carousel runs everyone in circles to keep up.

After Reed has been in the committee meeting for a while, he leaves the committee in mid-progress and comes back to speak to a reporter in an empty Senate caucus room.

Reed said, “The situation for me as majority leader, I’m serving on all the committees. Obviously, I can’t make every committee. I pick and choose the committees.”

Sometimes he makes his picks based on topics that will be controversial, to get ahead of them. He noted that day the Judiciary Committee was dealing with the House version of one bill which has not one but two counterpart Senate versions. They deal with parenting plans for child custody cases.

“They are very similar but they are miles apart,” he said. “You have hard-down issues on both sides related to topics. On a topic like that, I wanted to be at the Judiciary Committee.” 

The Senate has roughly a dozen committees. On a committee day, Reed said he has half a dozen committee requests a day, and they typically run from as little as 20 minutes to one fiscal accountability committee that once lasted 3.5 hours. He said it all depends on the agenda.

With all the committees practically trying to do their work within 24 hours, Reed does not know what he will face in the course of a day — but he finds this more productive when compared to large scale changes when the full Senate is in session.

“What we’ve tried to do is to do a lot more work in committee rather than on the floor,” Reed said. “If there is a way to get things worked out before you get out there, it is better for everybody. There is a lot more research that can be done and there is a lot more detail that can be added.” 

The conversations in the hallways go on all day long, he said.

“You have to be, number one, patient with the process because I asked for the job,” he said. “I wanted to be majority leader. So I am a servant to my colleagues and offer as much attention to them on the issues to work and negotiate different topics so everyone feels they are getting attention to issues that are important to them and to their districts.

“So you have to have patience and manage your schedule very well. This morning I was here before 7 a.m. and I will probably be here until after 7 p.m tonight,” he said.

The lobbyists constantly want to meet as well, he said.

“Now, I have a policy in my office. If I have a senator or House member who comes knocking on my door, other than my own constituents in my own district, a senator comes and says, ‘I need to meet with you,’ everybody is out. They have priority, no matter what.” After constituents and legislators, only then does he make time for lobbyists.

From Friday through Monday, he stays busy, although he noted he also gets to do fun things like go to car shows. But it is not all fun.

“I try to do a lot of my make-a-living business. I’ve got three kids in college and a mortgage,” he said. “Fridays are a day where I try to focus a lot of attention if people want to meet with me, if they want to have lunch, if they want to talk about different topics, if it is legislative issues or a problem they have.”

He also travels a great deal on Fridays, covering various counties in his district, which includes Fayette, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, Walker and Winston counties. “You have to manage your time appropriately,” he said.

Reed was asked now, in light of it all, if he enjoys it.

“I love it,” he said. “I do. It’s an opportunity where there are plenty of challenges. It has been one of the most intense learning experiences of my lifetime. But it is an opportunity to serve. I asked for it. The people gave me the option. They chose me to be in this role. I’ve been given a lot of responsibilities by my colleagues as the majority leader. It’s a good thing. It’s a good place for me to serve. I’m pleased with it.” 

And then, it was time for him to run to another committee meeting.